UNESCO wants to vet the 'changes' to Hagia Sophia and Chora

The UN agency wants the Turkish government to grant them access to evaluate possible alterations to the two World Heritage sites. Turkish officials have installed a system of curtains and lights to hide Christian traces. But Hagia Sophia continues to amaze; a hidden Seraphin angel has emerged, last seen by an Ottoman caliph.


Istanbul (AsiaNews) – UNESCO has asked the Turkish government to examine changes and possible alterations made to the former basilicas of Hagia Sophia and Chora, in Istanbul.

The two UNESCO World Heritage sites were recently turned into mosques, sparking a controversy that went beyond Turkey’s borders.

According to the Duvar news site, UNESCO Assistant Director-General Ernesto Ottone has asked for the inspection to be carried out by special envoy Mounir Bouchenaki, a renowned archaeologist.

Recent reports raised concerns over actions by Turkish authorities to hide the Christian origins of the two buildings, and make them more visibly Islamic.

Turkish officials have said a curtaining and lighting system is being used to cover the images, as human images are deemed idolatrous according to Islamic teachings.

The two ancient Christian basilicas of Hagia Sophia and Chora were turned into museums in the first half of the 20th century under the republic founded by Atatürk.

Turning them into mosques is part of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan’s goal of using "nationalism and Islam" to conceal the country’s economic crisis and maintain his hold on power.

Following the presidential decree ordering the change, Islamic authorities used a white curtain to cover the images of Jesus, frescoes and icons in Chora and Hagia Sophia that show their Christian roots.

Meanwhile, important fresh evidence of Hagia Sophia’s glorious past and heritage have emerged.

After removing scaffolding used in restoration work, a six-winged Seraphin angel was found. The scaffold was initially built in 1993. The mosaic was last seen at the time of Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I.

According to tradition, Seraphin angels are closest to God. The mosaic is one of four-winged angel figures that first adorned the Justinian cathedral, depicting the four biblical angels that are believed to guard heaven.